Note: This is a sidebar to a feature story headlined 'Desert sprawl.'
Ron Asta, an environmentalist and Pima County supervisor from 1973 to 1976, is now a zoning consultant to small landowners.
"After I lost my seat on the Board of Supervisors in 1976, I was offered a job by KUAT-TV (the local public TV station). I was going to be the host of a program on Rocky Mountain issues. Then, opposition came; a couple of sponsors called. I was fired. I thought, now what do I do? How does a radical politician like me make a living? Will business hire me? No. Will government hire me? No. I went a year without working and I cashed in my state retirement benefits. Then I got a call from a real estate company, asking if I was interested in coming to work. I said no. Six months later, I went to work for them. It was surprising to me how courteously I was treated by the real estate agents.
"Then, I shoplifted. I'd had 10 scotch and sodas and I had no money or food in my stomach. I stole a steak. I'd just started working for the real estate company and I hadn't made a sale yet.
"Here's this horrible publicity, and the real estate company calls and asks, "Why aren't you at work?" There's been a million jokes told about me, and who is with me? The real estate industry.
"I began to think to myself that this blanket indictment of all builders is bad. Everyone needs income. Others would say that I changed and that I abandoned what I believed in. I don't think my views changed. I try to get as much desert saved as I can whenever I take a job. If a human being grows too fast and gets too big, he dies of a heart attack. If a community or a person stops growing, you die.
"Have we sprawled too far? I think it's true. But here's what I object to. There's still no resolution. Let's not chip away at it with impact fees, the pygmy owl, or whatever. Why don't we just get out there, do it and let's get it resolved, so people know what they can do."